After a lot of research and planning,we landed in Vancouver on 3rd Aug 2012 for the much awaited Alaska Cruisetour for 11 days.We chose to stay in Days Inn Downtown,which was fabulous as we were close to Canada Place and Gastown.Next morning 4th Aug,We took a pre-cruise tour with Samantha of Vancouver Tours.She showed us around the city,Stanley park,Capillano and then dropped us off to the cruise terminal with our lugguage at 1pm.After long lines of security and embarkation formalities (about an hour and half)we were on the Diamond.
We went straight to the room where our lugguage was waiting...Fantastic!We had a port side balcony on deck 10 while the kids had inside room.Very spacious room,closet and Bathroom.Shower was a little cramped but the balcony was huge,half covered and half open.Our friends were in 2 adjoining rooms,so we requested our butler,Shanny to open the partition of the balcony.(During the course of our stay Shanny kept our room immaculate).We went to lunch buffet which had extensive food choices.Then we explored the ship,and went to the deck for sailing.The view was fantastic and specially when the ship went under the bridge,it was fun to wave to people on the bridge.
We made spa bookings and bought the thermal suite package which gives unlimited access to the steam room,hot beds.This was very helpful to rest sore muscles after long port days with trekking etc.
The formal dinner was a dressed up event with lot of pictures being taken by professionals.We had requested for Indian food which was served in addition to the menu.Also we changed our seating from 1st to 2nd as 8pm dinner suited us better.There was entertainment in the theater everyday at 6,8,10.15pm.No chance to miss it,whatever your dinner time might be.Some shows were hits,other were miss..but overall a great effort by the crew.If you didn't care for these there was game shows,dance,Movie under the stars to keep you busy.Just read the Princess Patter everyday and it helped to plan the next day,especially the weather forecast!
We ordered room service on port days,and it was always prompt.
The disembarkation on port days,Ketchikan,Juneau and Skagway was flawless.But Princess was always docked farthest from downtown,so longer walks.Didn't mind as we had some great weather.Ketchikan was great to get some 19.99 jackets and other knick-knacks.We went around Creek Street,Dolly's house(Hilarious)and did an Ecotour with Totembite park.Kids did Bear Creek Ziplining and thoroughly enjoyed the slide.
In Juneau we had rainy weather,but were lucky that our kids'dog sledding trip happened,best experience ever.I did a glacier landing on Taku Glacier and this will be the most memorable excursion of the trip for me.After a quick lunch we took $10 round trip bus to Mendenhall glacier and hiked the nugget falls trail-very amazing indeed.Saw bear feeding salmon to its cub!
In Skagway,Chilkoot Charters took us on a 7 hr trip-1st by bus to Caribou crossing and Emerald Lake.In Caribou crossing we got a great lunch(even Veg option of lentils was fab)and did a dogcart ride.Please prebook this as it is very popular and last minute tickets are impossible.Then we got on a train back to Skagway,a very picturesque ride indeed.Getting back on the ship was always easy and quick.
We booked our tours independently and had no problems whatsoever.
Glacier days were the most amazing experiences.Inside-passage sailing is a must for Alaska.The beautiful Glacier bay and College Fjords took my breath away.We saw so many seals,otters,puffins just lounging on icebergs on the way to College Fjords,In my opinion College Fjords was way more magical.We were fortunate to see Calving as well.On the way out of glacier bay we spotted a few whales as well.
We had tea with fresh scones and cakes in the dining room at 4pm everyday!Fish and chips for lunch on some days also was unique.We usually had Breakfast at the buffet with waffles from the icecream place thrown in:0.Lunch was pizza by the pool and special sushi or Alaskan Buffet by the pool as well.Dinner was in assigned seating of 8pm in International dining room with Ariel and Roy as our servers.They brought us Indian food everyday-even Indian desserts like shahi tukda,kheer halwa etc.This was in addition to the menu.We requested Escargots one nite and it was tasty;there was a lobster nite,Chefs nite,Italian nite and Baked Alaska parade one nite.Lots of variety-Veg and non-veg.Even in lunch buffet Indian items like dal, aloo gobhi and rajma,chana was included everyday.The vegetarians in our group were highly satisfied with roti,raita,papad and choice of veg dishes we had every night.Thanks Ariel and head chef!!
We had dinner once in Sabatini($20pp cover charge)I enjoyed it for the experience and desserts but won't recommend it.
Disembarkation was effortless.We had tagged and kept our luggage out the night before,one for meeting us in Fairbanks and one for join me tonite at Talkeetna.I must say,the baggage was handled very well.Kudos to Princess.We were given numbers with a time to disembark,and straight away into the waiting train to Talkeetna.
The land portion of our tour included Talkeetna,Denali and Fairbanks.
We got off the train in Talkeetna(abbout 5 hrs from Whittier) and sent our hand lugguage to the lodge in the bus,while we stayed back in town to sightsee.In Talkeetna,we took a Summit flight with Dave to see Mt Mckinley.Then took the hourly shuttle to the Mt Mckinley princess lodge which is about an hour's drive.Beautiful property in the wilderness with great views of Mt Mckinley.Next day we did some hiking trails.Be aware that there is not much to do around here.
Bus ride to Denali was about 2 hours.The lodge was the same format but was more centrally located with food choices and shopping across the road.Here we went Rafting(highly recommended).Next morning we went into Denali National park on the 8.30am Denali shuttle bus from the wilderness center.The princess shuttle (runs hourly from 7am)dropped us to the wilderness center.Its a 5-7 minute ride to the park entrance and about 2 miles away.Our Denali shuttle was a round trip till Kantishna.But we decided to return from Eielson center which is 4 hrs into the park(Mile66)We saw bears,Caribou,Moose,Coyote.I recommend this highly over the NHT which goes to mile 16 only.
Next morning we were off to Fairbanks-about 2 and half hours.We were taken straight to the riverboat cruise.This was informative and the Indian village stop on the way was extremely cute.Then we were taken to Fairbanks lodge where our Meet me in Fairbanks lugguage was waiting.Again we were asked to leave all our check-in lugguage out by 5.30am next morning for the Airport shuttle.
In the evening we rented a car and went to Chena hot springs and Ice museum.Ice museum had the last tour at 9pm and hot springs was open till midnight.The hour long ride was so worth it.We saw 3 moose on the way.We were hoping to catch Northern Lights but Gods did not oblige.No complaints as Vacation Gods were very kind to us the whole trip.
The Airport shuttle dropped us to the Airport where Princess representatives helped with our check-in bags and check in.Very efficient indeed.
I highly recommend Princess to everyone as the level of service provided was exemplary,fantastic food choices,awesome itenarary, great entertainment options and smooth embarkation and disembarkation.